What a surprise to find this New York Times “Motherlode” blog entry from a South Asian British Muslim, Umm Salihah (whose blog is here); it’s great to see a perspective on Islam and raising children in a major news outlet.
An Islamic View of Parenting, NYTimes, 1.12.11
I love the Islamic concept that when we do things with the aim of pleasing Allah we engage in worship, even if they are just everyday actions. So cooking a meal is a chore, but cooking with the aim of pleasing Allah by feeding his creation and eating to take care of the body he gave you as an Amanah (trust) becomes an act of worship.
Similarly, child-rearing can be hard and challenging work, but when engaged in with the intention of pleasing Allah and carrying out the work he has assigned to us, it becomes an act of worship from beginning to end. The waking in the night, the cleaning of stuff that makes other people leave the room, the difficulties of breast-feeding, the fatigue, the duty to be mindful of what you say and do, having to constantly watch your little ones – all become living, breathing, walking, waking worship.
Muslims believe that through our words, our soothing, our chores, all of the small kindnesses of a mother and father, Allah elicits from us worship and forgives us our sins. With this thinking in mind, it becomes much harder to smack a child and much easier to take a breath and act rationally.
Islam encourages us to follow the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when it comes to our everyday lives including raising our children. His approach to his family was epitomized with gentleness and compassion. There is a hadith, or Prophetic tradition, in Islam that says: “Abu Salmah narrated that Abu Hurayrah said, “The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) kissed Hasan ibn ‘Ali (his grandson) while Aqra’ ibn Habis was sitting nearby. Aqra’ said, ‘I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) looked at him and said, ‘Those who show no mercy will be shown no mercy.’” Bukhari (Volume No. 91)
This tells me that affection and mercy towards our children is a necessity if we wish for the same. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was also never known to hit a child. Instead a Muslim parent is encouraged to teach by good example and discouraged from disciplining until the child is 7 years old. At 7 years, the child begins the age of tarbiyyah, or good upbringing. These are the years requiring firmness and instruction in educating the child and teaching them good manners – again the focus is on firmness and not violence. Once the child reaches puberty, the parents’ role becomes one of friend and mentor as the child is considered to be old enough to be responsible for their own actions. I like this idea of a gentler, more peaceful parenting – less friction and more kindness.
Read the rest here.